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Astronomers continue examining mysterious fast radio bursts

A new Canadian telescope continues to investigate fast radio bursts (FRBs).
By Tyler MacDonald | Oct 16, 2019
Since researchers first detected them back in 2007, fast radio bursts (FRBs) have been the focus of many scientific studies. Yet despite recent research, they continue to be a source of mystery.

FRBs are transient radio pulses that stem from distant sources in the galaxy and often last a few milliseconds. But scientists still aren't sure exactly what causes themsome theories suggest black holes, while others point to exploding stars and alien civilizations.

Now, researchers are hoping that the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) will shed light on FRBs. It made its first detection of an FRB, named FRB 180725A, on July 25, 2018.

"The automated pipeline triggered the recording to disk of ~20 seconds of buffered raw intensity data around the time of the FRB," the team announced. "The event had an approximate width of 2 ms and was found at dispersion measure 716.6 pc/cm^3 with a signal-to-noise ratio S/N ~20.6 in one beam and 19.4 in a neighboring beam. The centers of these, approximately 0.5 deg wide and circular beams, were at RA, Dec = (06:13:54.7, +67:04:00.1; J2000) and RA, Dec = (06:12:53.1, +67:03:59.1; J2000)."

Not only is this the first time that the Canadian facility detected a potential FRB, it's the first time that a FRB below the 700 MHz range has been detected. However, other signals of similar intensity might have been detected in the past and not been deemed FRBs.

"Additional FRBs have been found since FRB 180725A and some have flux at frequencies as low as 400 MHz," the team said. "These events have occurred during both the day and night and their arrival times are not correlated with known on-site activities or other known sources of terrestrial RFI (Radio Frequency Identification)."

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